Language and power in India's “new services”

Julien Cayla, Kushagra Bhatnagar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Language is at the heart of service interactions and a crucial element influencing the relationship between service provider and customer. As a specific form of symbolic capital, language can also be used to exclude and dominate. Our research looks at the role of language in shaping the power dynamic between service providers and cus- tomers in the Indian context. This study builds from extensive fieldwork conducted in the area of “new services”, following Indian gym trainers and coffee shop baristas as they interact with elite English-speaking clients. The findings detail how English operates as an invisible boundary in service settings, by excluding Indians who do not speak it with fluency. However, when used to develop expert knowledge, language also becomes an oppor- tunity for lower middle class Indians to resist and invert the domination of the elite.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-198
JournalJournal of Business Research
Early online date2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Interaction
  • Invisible boundary
  • Language
  • Symbolic capital


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